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Outdoor mecca Hardwood Ski & Bike launches trail running series

Trail running has never been more popular than it is right now, and some of the best trails for off-road tromping in Southern Ontario can be found near Barrie at Hardwood Ski & Bike. With their annual trail running series gearing up for a new year, and the trails likely to open soon in all their glory, it is time for Ontario runners to discover this area or plan for their return.

Although the pandemic is causing the first races to go virtual, it isn’t a typical virtual event. Each participant will actually be running the same trails at Hardwood and registering an official time, it just won’t all be together. And, the Hardwood crew is still hoping for physical events to come as soon as possible. 

“People aren't all coming on the same day, whenever is convenient for you,” says Arienne Strong, Hardwood’s Program Director. “And you're going out on your own. But we will have the timing system and online results. So you submit your own results, and it will plug into the system. As the race goes on, you can track the status in real-time.”

The Hardwood Trail Running Challenge is set to run May 15-30. When registering, participants get three trail running tickets to complete three challenges within 16 days, and a chance to win entry into the August time trial event as well as draws for prizes, swag, and more. 

“It is a virtual event, but it’s different. It’s not like you’re running the Inca Trail in your own backyard,” she says. “You have to run a specific course. But you can do it anytime in a two-week span. Actually, there are going to be three different running courses. So the thought is, your entry fee gets you three trail passes. And you have to come out and complete all three challenges.”

This is a serious step up from the virtual events that have been running, adding an element that could definitely fuel those rivalries. 

“While we are waiting, it helps to keep that competitive nature,” Strong says. “It brings that level of competitiveness back into it.”

There are three running challenges set for 2021, the second on Aug. 21 and then on Oct. 30. The hope is to get physical as soon as possible, but certainly, the safety of runners, families, volunteers, and staff is Hardwood’s top priority. The races are structured to adhere to local health guidelines and ensure fun and safe trail running for all.

As always, there will be a charitable component to the races as well, including the tradition of the fall Halloween Hustle race benefiting the local food bank. 

In a typical year, 75-130 competitors hit Hardwood Ski & Bike for the trail running events. It’s a great race for those looking for their first foray into trail competition but it also brings out some top-notch racers/

“We get some very fast runners, very experienced racers,” Strong says. “But then we have some of our locals that we know who ride their bikes, and they're part of our Hardwood family, and they just come out. And we have one lady who is in her 80s. And she signed up for the race. She never misses it. And she just loves to watch everybody and see all the families out there.”

For runners looking for safe, perfect trails and a fantastic atmosphere on race day and every day, Harwood is definitely worth checking out. 

To register for the Trail Running Challenge head to the Hardwood Race Roster page. 

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